Communication records concerning America's Harvest Box

Alex Kotch filed this request with the U.S. Department of Agriculture Food and Nutrition Service of the United States of America.
Tracking #

2018-FNS-02522-F, 2018-DA-03045-F

2018-FNS-02522-F

Status
Completed

Communications

From: Alex Kotch

To Whom It May Concern:

This is a request under the Freedom of Information Act. I hereby request the following records:

All communications between anyone affiliated with the USDA Food and Nutrition Service, the USDA Food, Nutrition and Consumer Services and the USDA Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion and any representatives of the food industry, from Jan. 1, 2017 to the present, regarding the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and/or America's Harvest Box. The search should include, but not be limited to, communications to and from USDA officials Kailee Tkacz, Sonny Perdue, Brandon Lipps and Maggie Lyons.

The search should include, but not be limited to, key words and phrases including: SNAP, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, America's Harvest Box, Harvest Box, Corn Refiners Association, National Grocers Association, SNAC International, U.S. Grains Council, National Grain and Feed Association, NGFA, North American Export Grain Association, American Association of Meat Processor, AAMP, International Dairy Foods Association, IDFA, National Milk Producers Federation, NMPF, Blue Apron.

The requested documents will be made available to the general public, and this request is not being made for commercial purposes.

In the event that there are fees, I would be grateful if you would inform me of the total charges in advance of fulfilling my request. I would prefer the request filled electronically, by e-mail attachment if available or CD-ROM if not.

Please see my fee waiver request:

The requested documents will be made available to the general public, and this request is not being made for commercial purposes. I am requesting a waiver of all fees under 5 U.S.C. Section 552(a)(4)(A)(iii). The information I seek is in the public interest because it will contribute significantly to public understanding of the operations or activities of the government. This request is not a commercial request -- it is being made by a journalist and is seeking documents of clear public interest and concern.
I believe I meet the criteria for a fee waiver recognized by the U.S. Justice Department - and by the federal courts, See Project on Military Procurement v. Department of the Navy, 710 F. Supp. 362 363, 365 (D.C.D. 1989).

My request concerns the operations or activities of government because the records relate to the health and nutrition of low-income Americans. The records that are responsive to this request will spotlight the way that officials and outside forces influence public policy.

Also, the information sought has informative value, or potential for contribution to public understanding. Please note the decision in Elizabeth Eudey v. Central Intelligence Agency, 478 F. Supp. 1175 1176 (D.C.D. 1979) (even a single document has the potential for contributing to public understanding). As an experience independent journalist, I plan to disseminate this information to the public at large through publication in one of the more than 20 outlets that have published my work. Those award-winning publications get millions of visitors per month.

In your deliberations, please take note of the following cases: Campbell v. U.S. Department of Justice, 334 U.S. App. D.C. (1998)(administrative and seemingly repetitious information is not exempt from fee-waiver consideration); Project on Military Procurement (agencies cannot reject a fee waiver based on the assumption that the information sought is covered by a FOIA exemption; and Landmark Legal Foundation v. Internal Revenue Service, 1998 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 21722 (D.C.D. 1998)(the fact that the information will soon be turned over to a public body does not exempt the material from fee-waiver consideration).

Thank you in advance for your anticipated cooperation in this matter. I look forward to receiving your response to this request within 20 business days, as the statute requires.

Sincerely,

Alex Kotch

From: U.S. Department of Agriculture Food and Nutrition Service

Hello, Please see attached your FOIA acknowledgement letter. If youhave any questions, please let me know at FOIA@fns.usda.gov REMINDER: Please do not reply to this email directly, asthis email is not monitored by the FOIA Officer. To ensure a prompt and secureFOIA response, send all FOIA requests, FOIA appeals, any FOIA questions to FOIA@fns.usda.gov. Thank you, Jennifer

From: U.S. Department of Agriculture Food and Nutrition Service

Please see attached correspondence

From: U.S. Department of Agriculture Food and Nutrition Service

Dear Mr. Kotch:

This email acknowledges receipt of your attached Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Department FOIA Office (DFO). Your request was referred to DFO by the Food and Nutrition Service (FNS), and received by this office on February 27, 2018.

The DFO is under the purview of the Office of the Chief Information Officer (OCIO) and serves as the focal point for USDA's FOIA program. The DFO provides coordination and ensures agency-wide compliance with the FOIA. Additionally, the DFO processes requests and appeals on behalf of the Office of the Secretary and Departmental Management's ("DM") components. For a complete listing of DM's components, please visit http://www.dm.usda.gov/agencies.htm.

The FOIA, 5 U.S.C. § 552(a)(6)(A)(i), requires USDA to make a determination in response to a FOIA request within 20 business days from its date of receipt. In unusual circumstances, the federal agency time limit may be extended by 10 business days as stated in 5 U.S.C. § 552(a)(6)(B). If your request seeks numerous documents that will necessitate a wide-ranging search, including searches with components and possible consultations with components that have a substantial interest in the determination of this request, USDA will invoke a 10 business day extension for determination of your request. You have the option to narrow the scope of your request to limit the number of potentially responsive documents.

Due to the increasing number of FOIA requests received by this office, we may encounter some delay in processing your request. Pursuant to USDA FOIA regulations, Title 7 CFR §1.8(d), the USDA processes FOIA requests according to their order of receipt.

Provisions of the FOIA allow USDA to recover part of the cost of complying with your request. For purposes of fee assessment, you have been categorized as a media requester, pursuant to 7 CFR Appendix A to Subpart A of Part 1 Section (5)(c). ). For your review and information, a copy of the USDA FOIA Fee Schedule is attached. You have requested a few waiver. However, your classification as a media requester renders your fee waiver request moot because the only fees that would apply to you are duplication costs beyond the first 100 pages. Since you requested that your response be delivered electronically, duplication costs are not anticipated. In the unlikely event that duplication costs were incurred, such would be waived.

A search will be initiated by the DFO for records responsive to your request. If any responsive records are located, they will be reviewed for determination of releasability. Please be assured that a FOIA Analyst in this office will respond to your request as expeditiously as possible. We appreciate your patience as we proceed with your request.

Your request has been assigned FOIA Case No. 2018-DA-03045-F. Please refer to this case number in any future correspondence. If you have any questions regarding this letter, please contact Ms. Camille Aponte at (202) 694-5260 or electronically at Camille.Aponte@ocio.usda.gov<mailto:Camille.Aponte@ocio.usda.gov> or USDAFOIA@ocio.usda.gov<mailto:USDAFOIA@ocio.usda.gov>.

For additional information regarding USDA FOIA regulations and process, please refer to the information available on-line at www.dm.usda.gov/foia<http://www.dm.usda.gov/foia>.

The DFO Team appreciates the opportunity to assist you in this matter.

Sincerely,

Department FOIA Office

This electronic message contains information generated by the USDA solely for the intended recipients. Any unauthorized interception of this message or the use or disclosure of the information it contains may violate the law and subject the violator to civil or criminal penalties. If you believe you have received this message in error, please notify the sender and delete the email immediately.

From: Alex Kotch

Hi Ms. Aponte,

I'm checking in on this FOIA Case No. 2018-DA-03045-F. I believe it's been more than 20 business days, so I hope you're close to filling my request?

Many thanks,
Alex

From: U.S. Department of Agriculture Food and Nutrition Service

Hi Alex,

Thank you for inquiring into the status of your FOIA request. I am still processing records, which are also shared with at least one other similar FOIA request.
Best,

Camille

From: U.S. Department of Agriculture Food and Nutrition Service

Dear Mr. Kotch,

I apologize for the delay in responding to your above-referenced FOIA request. The records you requested would be a subset of a larger records search that was underway shortly before your request was submitted. I am still reviewing those records, which are voluminous, but am prioritizing their review.

Your request seeks records of Kailee Tkacz, Sonny Perdue, Brandon Lipps and Maggie Lyons for correspondence with representatives of the food industry starting on January 1, 2017, generally regarding the Harvest Box program for SNAP recipients. I am currently reviewing records for a similar request that encompasses all OSEC email account users, from January 1, 2017, regarding the Harvest Box and Blue Apron. This search would include correspondence with internal and external persons regarding the subject matter, to include the four individuals you identified.

Please let me know whether you are interested in receiving as your response the entirety of the records that would be released in response to the above-mentioned, similar request, which is slightly broader than yours, or whether you would like me to only deem as response to your request those records pertaining only to communications of Kailee Tkacz, Sonny Perdue, Brandon Lipps and Maggie Lyons with representatives of the food industry.

Please also feel free to contact me if you would like to discuss or have any questions.

Best,

Camille

[cid:image003.png@01D2D531.9DDFCF50]

Camille C. Aponte-Rossini, Esq.
FOIA Analyst (Contractor)
Departmental FOIA Office
Office of the Chief Information Officer
US Department of Agriculture
1400 Independence Ave., SW, Room 2025A
Washington, DC 20250
☎ 202-694-5260 (Voice)
Camille.Aponte@ocio.usda.gov<mailto:Camille.Aponte@ocio.usda.gov>

This electronic message contains information generated by the USDA solely for the intended recipients. Any unauthorized interception of this message or the use or disclosure of the information it contains may violate the law and subject the violator to civil or criminal penalties. If you believe you have received this message in error, please notify the sender and delete the email immediately.

From: Alex Kotch

Thanks, Camille. I'd like the results of my more narrow request first; but would it be possible to have access to the bigger request once that's ready? I've been waiting a while so I'd like to see something ASAP but am also interested in additional, related documents.

Thank you,
Alex

From: U.S. Department of Agriculture Food and Nutrition Service

I’m going to search through the large record set and pull those records that may be responsive to your request, for quicker processing. I can also send you a copy of the response to the larger request when it goes out, or as any interim responses may be released.
Thanks,

Camille

From: Alex Kotch

That's perfect, thank you!

From: U.S. Department of Agriculture Food and Nutrition Service

Dear Mr. Kotch,

Attached are the final response letter and records responsive to your above-referenced FOIA request.

Best,

[cid:image003.png@01D2D531.9DDFCF50]

Camille C. Aponte-Rossini, Esq.
FOIA Analyst (Contractor)
Departmental FOIA Office
Office of the Chief Information Officer
US Department of Agriculture
1400 Independence Ave., SW, Room 2025A
Washington, DC 20250
☎ 202-694-5260 (Voice)
Camille.Aponte@ocio.usda.gov<mailto:Camille.Aponte@ocio.usda.gov>

This electronic message contains information generated by the USDA solely for the intended recipients. Any unauthorized interception of this message or the use or disclosure of the information it contains may violate the law and subject the violator to civil or criminal penalties. If you believe you have received this message in error, please notify the sender and delete the email immediately.

From: Alex Kotch

Hi Camille,

Thanks so much for your help with this request! I really appreciate it. Looking forward to getting access to the larger FOIA when it's ready.

Sincerely,
Alex Kotch

From: U.S. Department of Agriculture Food and Nutrition Service

You’re welcome! I have made a note to send you a copy of those records upon release.

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